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Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Open-Front Cape and Close Ties

The crisp air and changing leaves bring a shift towards fall fashions. Retailers like Anthropologie are selling some lovely capes, but they are nothing like this beautiful silk-satin version by Christian Dior, gifted to GMD by notable donor and Minnesota-native fashion director, Kathleen Catlin.


The loosely structured shawl collar and three-quarter sleeves compliment the draped body of the garment. The cream satin is cutaway to reveal a matte peach silk and to create the scroll motif. The design is embroidered with metallic gold thread and adorned with beads, rhinestones, and pearls. Made in France, the cape was originally worn on the runway during the early 1950s and was a gift from one of the Goldstein's notable donors: Kathleen Catlin.

Catlin was born in Cottonwood, Minnesota - a small town west of the Twin Cities. She had a number of jobs in the fashion industry, including writing for a fashion column and working in publicity and copywriting, but she best known for her role as fashion director at Marshall Field's in Chicago from 1946-1961. She was very influential in importing European, especially French, fashions to Field's and for raising the status of the midwest store. Catlin traveled to Europe twenty-eight times while at Field's, forming ties with many in the fashion industry. She was particularly close to Dior, whom she brought to Field's during his first visit to the United States.

One of her former employee noted that "Dior thought the world of her" (Moin, 1995). Catlin also thought very highly of the designer and her personal wardrobe featured a great deal of his work. She donated her couture collection to the museum, which included several objects that reflect the relationship between the designer and the fashion director, including a scarf that reads "Christian Dior pour Miss K. Catlin."


Moin, D. (1995). A memorial service set for Kathleen Catlin. Women's Wear Daily, 80(1), 16.

By Laureen Gibson